Australian domain policy faces radical shakeup

The .au domain administration body (auDA) plans to sell previously-prohibited geographically-based domain names, as well as implement a host of other significant changes.

The .au domain administration body (auDA) plans to sell previously-prohibited geographically-based domain names, as well as implement a host of other significant changes.

Speaking at a special presentation to the Internet Society of Australia last night, auDA chief executive officer Chris Disspain said his organisation will allow the registration of geographically-based domain names such as wollongong.com.au or wollongong.net.au. "auDA will publish a list of all the names available," said Disspain. In 30 days, the new domain regime will become official auDA policy, he added.

The domains will be sold in bundles and can be grouped under a parent name. For instance, williamstownnorth.com.au, can be bundled with williamstown-north.com.au and other variants. Each bundle will cost a special AU$500 one-off fee in addition to the regular fee, said Disspain. Those keen to register a certain name will "still need to have a close and substantial connection to that name," as is currently required in the .com.au and .net.au domain spaces, he added.

The sale of geographic name bundles will also differ from the normal sale of domain names in that once an application has been made for a bundle, domain name registrars will place all applications into a pool to close on a certain day. Each winner will be drawn at random in a computer-based process. This will differ from the auction format used for generic names in which, according to Disspain, "big business won every time".

Disspain said the money from the sale would be used to set up a separate organisation to auDA which would organise and fund auDA's 2002 decision to introduce a special domain name for each local geographically-based community in Australia. Associated with the scheme, auDA also plans to introduce a second-level domain name for each state and territory, for example, nsw.au and qld.au. Communities would have their own names under these domains, for example, brokenhill.nsw.au.

While auDA's decision to introduce a community domain name space has been known for some time, an independent study by the University of Wollongong said that any such scheme would not work unless a significant amount of assistance was provided to the communities involved. However, Disspain said the money raised from the sale of the geographic domain name bundles would solve the funding problem.

The organisation charged with managing the community domain space was likely to be a membership-driven and likely that "those members would be the communities themselves", Disspain said. In the short-term, auDA will oversee the running of the organisation.

In addition, each community portal "must be representative of the whole community". If it turns out a site hosted under a community domain name was not representative, the community involved would enter "an arbitration process in place to resolve any difficulties". Sub-level domains such as examplename.brokenhill.nsw.au would not be allowed.

Some of the other changes that auDA has made to its domain names policy are also significant. The organisation has responded to complaints about the irrelevance of the .asn.au domain space, and will relax the rules on associations registering .org.au domains. "If you can have one, now you can have the other," Disspain said.

Additionally, while those interested in a .com.au domain name will still have to have a "close and substantial connection" to any domain name to be able to legally register it, the details will not have to be provided during the registration process. However, auDA has "beefed up the warranty" that applicants must sign during the process to discourage dubious registrations. Disspain said of the change: "auDA wants to make it easier for people to fill out the form to get their domain name."

Furthermore, auDA has introduced the ability for organisations with more than one registered domain name to synchronise the renewal dates for those names, in order to simplify management. This change was aimed at making life easier for large corporations, he said. auDA will also relax the rules in the .id.au domain space, allowing individuals to register their nickname as their domain name.

Lastly, auDA will allow country codes to be registered in the Australian domain space. Previously, applicants were prohibited from registering domain names which were also country codes -- for example ng.com.au could not be registered because 'ng' is the top-level country code for Nigeria.